By Aaron Zaretsky
The evolution of Groundhog Day began as an ancient Irish festival called Imbolc which is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The festival commences from February 1st through sundown February 2nd and signals the season of new birth and light on the horizon.
But just how long would it take? We needed a prediction!
Up comes Candlemas Day celebrated February 2nd, where people believed that if the day was sunny, winter would last six more weeks and if it was cloudy or overcast, winter would soon be over.
German people were aware of Candlemas Day and adapted how to predict when spring sprung by using a hedgehog. This hedgehog later became a groundhog when German people immigrated to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the United States because there were not many hedgehogs. If the small furry mammal saw its shadow on February 2nd, winter would resume for six more weeks but if there was no shadow, spring would be around the corner. The first recorded Groundhog Day commenced on February 2nd, 1886 with Punxsutawney Phil not seeing their shadow. Over the years, Phil’s prediction would fluctuate.
But enough about America’s groundhog meteorologist as Canada’s own groundhog meteorologist used for Groundhog Day is called Wiarton Willie! This groundhog originated in 1957 when resident Mac McKenzie of Wiarton, Ontario created a Groundhog Day celebration in his hometown, welcoming everyone he knew. On the day of, McKenzie dug a small hole in the snow, grabbed what is famously known as Wiarton Willie, and Canada’s Groundhog Day tradition was born. The event was like a small hole in terms of those that appeared but, like the evolution of Groundhog Day, it has evolved into a family-friendly festival. Also, Willie is interwoven in the Wiarton community, a part of Canada’s history and has their own statue! Not too bad for a unique groundhog!
Just how accurate is Wiarton Willie? According to Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, he estimates Willie has 30% accuracy. Conversely, several Groundhog Day organizers believe the prognosticator to be 75-90% accurate. There is no factual statistic in Willie’s accuracy. People choose to believe what they want and there is no judgment whatsoever. Just don’t get your hopes up if Willie’s prediction and accuracy is not what you want.
Will there be six more weeks of winter or an early spring in 2020? Find out this February 2nd for Wiarton Willie’s prediction! And you can keep up to date with Canada’s spring prognosticator on social media through Twitter and Facebook!